The new data on militancy indicates a drastic reduction in the number of militants in the union territory. According to the figures, 111 active militants are now operating in the region out of which just 40 are local youth. This is for the first time in years that the ratio of active militants in J&K has changed in favour of the foreigners. While the decline in the number of local militants will be regarded as a positive development by the security agencies, the rise in the influx of foreign militants is troubling. It once again points out the perennial challenge of fighting militancy in the Valley: when the local militancy is reigned in, Pakistan-based militants step in to fill up the shortfall. As a result, the militancy goes on.
The rise of militancy in twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu division, and which is largely led by foreign militants attests to this fact. More than a decade ago, the twin districts were declared free of militancy by the government. However, since October 2021, the region has witnessed a surge in militant attacks. Although an uneasy calm prevailed in Jammu in 2022, this year the region has once again become a hotspot for militancy, with around ten security personnel being killed in two ambushes. The dense forests of the region have made it difficult for security forces to trace them. The situation has been made even more concerning by the fact that the forest area where the militants are hiding extends to the districts in South Kashmir, which have been a hotbed of militancy in recent years. Kokernag, a scenic spot in the region, recently witnessed a six day long encounter in which a Commanding Officer, Major, DySP and a soldier were killed beside one militant.
In a recent statement, Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha said that the government is now working on a plan to replicate the counterinsurgency strategy adopted in Kashmir Valley to curb the rising violence in Jammu. This includes identification and arrest of over-ground supporters of militants, proactive counter-insurgency operations, deployment of police, Army, Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) and night patrolling and area domination, which are believed to have helped check infiltration to a large extent in the Kashmir region.
That said, the militancy may be down but it is not out. And it is likely to linger on as long as the fresh recruitment and the infiltration continue to replenish the depleted militant ranks. And to achieve this, the government needs to also work on a political outreach in addition to a security approach which may not deliver results beyond a point.
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